I am a Jamaican and let’s face it, who is better to talk about the dangers of visiting my beautiful island. Yes, there is crime, and yes, the murder rate is high. It makes no sense denying that, but the majority of those killed are not visitors but locals, yes, Jamaicans killed by Jamaicans. It is a sad fact and it hurts me daily to see the statistics. It is rare, very rare for a tourist to be murdered. The fact is that the majority of Jamaicans will protect visitors to our island.
Can you get robbed? Yes, you can get robbed if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, but this can happen in any country in the world. In areas such as Negril, Ohio Rios, Montego Bay, Portland and Kingston, you can see visitors happily moving around and enjoying their vacation on the Rock.
One of the biggest hassles to visitors is the persistent street side vendors who try to force visitors to buy their products. A firm no and a pleasant smile can deter most of these vendors. In most cases, just smiling and walking away is enough.
Like anywhere else in the world there are those areas that are not safe to be in if you are a not a resident or accompanied by a resident. Some inner-city neighbourhoods can be unsafe especially at nights. Even as a Jamaican there are some areas I will not go into by myself or even in a group unless someone from the area is with me.
Don’t go around flashing a large amount of cash around. Take the amount of money you think you will need, and it is even better to have small denominations. Also, be careful where you put your wallet and purse. Never ever put your wallet in your back pocket, and this goes for any other country you visit, not just Jamaica. If you are driving, do not leave your purse or valuables such as laptops on the car seat, even if the windows are up.
You are going on vacation so leave your expensive jewellery at home. Chain snatching is common enough, so it is better not to wear any while out and about. Keep your cell phone close at hand at all times. If you are in a car in slow moving traffic and using your phone, do not have the window down fully. Thieves are masters of opportunity and will snatch the phone from your hands.
Do not walk around with your important documents such as passport, IDs and visa. Leave them as well as your other valuables in your in-room safe. You should also make copies of important documents, just in case you lose the originals.
If you plan on moving around, ask your hotel front desk manager or host for advice on where to go by yourself and where you need to be a part of a group. Your hotel staff knows where it is best for visitors to avoid.
Be aware of your surroundings at all time. Follow your inner voice; if you feel unsafe, just go back to a more touristy part of town.
If you are the victim of a robbery, don’t fight back, don’t argue. Just hand over what is requested. It is the safest thing to do. Even us locals know this!
Travelling in Jamaica can be an adventure in itself. If you plan on taking a taxi, take those that are licensed and are easily identified by the ‘red licence plates’. Some hotels have arrangements with special taxis and companies such as JUTA to take visitors around. Ask for help at the front desk.
If you need to convert your currency to the local Jamaican dollar, do so at your hotel or other authorised agents such as a bank or cambio.
Jamaica is as safe as many other travel destinations. Just be as careful as you would be in your native country. You can have a great Jamaican vacation away from your all-inclusive if you take the necessary safety precautions.